Launched in 2000, the European Research Area (ERA) aims to better integrate European research and innovation systems and to improve cooperation between the European Union (EU), its Member States and all participating third countries. The European Research Area has the goal of creating a single, borderless market for research, innovation and technology among the participating countries.
In 2018, a revitalisation process of the ERA was launched to better respond to the changing needs in the research and innovation area. Particularly mission-oriented which aims to solve societal challenges, and 'open science' policies played an important role in this. Against this background, the European Commission presented its “Communication on a new ERA” in September 2020, which was endorsed in the “Council Conclusions on the new ERA” in December 2020. The new ERA will be based on excellence and seeks to be competitive, talent-driven and open.
The new governance of the European Research Area aims to strengthen coordination within the EU, its Member States and with associated as well as relevant third countries and stakeholders. The new ERA should contribute to a greater recognition and enhancement of the role of research and innovation and their usage in addressing societal and economic challenges in Europe.
Currently, the European Research Area finds itself in a transition phase towards the vision of the new ERA. As part of this transformation, the “Pact for Research and Innovation“ and the “ERA Policy Agenda“ were launched in 2021. The “Pact for Research and Innovation” sets out general priority areas for joint action in the European Research Area.
The “ERA Policy Agenda” sets ERA's priorities for the next three years. The “ERA Policy Agenda” contains a catalogue of “ERA Actions” for the period 2022-2024, which are intended to contribute to the objectives set out in the “Pact for Research and Innovation”. The final version and the possible implementation of the "ERA Actions" are currently being discussed in the ERA Forum.
- The new governance foresees a committed political participation through a strong role of the research ministers through the Council (decision-making) and ERA ministerial conferences.
- The European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC) should continue at a high executive level, with a strategic advisory role on the implementation of the ERA, the ERA policy design, and EU R&I policy in general, with the ambition of bringing national and European R&I policy closer together.
- The newly founded ERA Forum as the operational body of the ERA, is responsible for enhancing coordination towards the effective implementation of the ERA Policy Agenda, and supports the Commission and the Member States in the delivery of the ERA Actions.
- The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), and the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) Steering Board continue their work as independent Commission Expert Groups and closely coordinate with and regularly inform the ERA Forum.
Switzerland and the European Research Area
Switzerland supports the ambitious goals of the new European Research Area. Associated countries, relevant third countries, as Switzerland, and important stakeholders are to be involved in a case-by-case approach in the new ERA.
The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) ensures that researchers in Switzerland have the opportunity to participate in the EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation, as far as this is possible in the current non-associated third country mode. SERI will coordinate Switzerland's participation in the various committees and initiatives for the further development of ERA where this is envisaged.
For the time being, Switzerland is considered a non-associated third country in the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation "Horizon Europe" and related programmes and initiatives. This status can change at any time. Switzerland's full association to "Horizon Europe" remains the Federal Council's declared goal.
Switzerland and the EU share a long-standing and successful cooperation in the areas of research and innovation, which should also be continued in the new European Research Area.
The achievements of the European Research Area
Over the past 20 years, great successes have been achieved in the European Research Area. The following overview provides a short insight into the common achievements of the European Research Area, in which Switzerland has also played a part:
- Research infrastructures: The work of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) resulted in the development of plans for 63 European Research Infrastructures across all fields of science, resulting in the mobilisation of over EUR 20 billion in investments.
- Research programmes: Jointly addressing common challenges through coordination and pooling of resources has resulted in more than EUR 7 billion of national investment in joint research programmes since 2004, with annual joint spending of EUR 800 million.
- Research careers: Significant progress has been made in removing geographical barriers to researcher mobility and the fragmentation of research careers in Europe driven by the “European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers”, which has already been adopted by 1242 organisations. In addition, the EURAXESS initiative supports the mobility and career development of researchers by providing information and support services to professional researchers.
- Open science: ERA has improved access to open, free, reusable scientific information through the Open Science Initiative and the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), which created a cloud area for research data in Europe allowing for better science through open and collaborative knowledge sharing.
- International cooperation: In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ERAvsCorona action plan was launched. This aimed to achieve greater coordination, collaboration, data sharing and funding within ERA in the fight against Covid-19 in the field of research and innovation.
- Gender equality in research and innovation: Gender equality in research and innovation is a priority of the ERA. Already in the “ERA Communication 2012”, the European Commission set three objectives to work with the countries and promote institutional change. The “ERA Policy Agenda” also aims to further advance gender equality in research and innovation.
ERAC Opinion on the future of the ERA (Dec 2019)
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic And Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: A New ERA For Research And Innovation (Sep, 2020)
European Research Area (ERA)
European Open Science Cloud (EOSC)